Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kayla's Cool New Sneakers


                          Kayla’s Cool New Sneakers
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

            Kayla wasn’t sure who decided blue FLYR sneakers were cool and other brands and colors weren’t. They didn’t make anybody run faster or jump higher— Kate still ran the fastest and Jerry still lagged behind everybody. Nobody got magically smarter when they laced their FLYRs on. Still, Kayla wanted a pair of blue FLYRs more than anything.
            With a pair of blue FLYRs on her feet, Peyton wouldn’t wrinkle her nose and say, “I’d just die if I had to wear sneakers with stripes!”
            Mia wouldn’t toss her head and ask, “Where’d you find those?” At the very least, the teasing would stop if she had a pair of FLYRs and maybe, just maybe, Peyton, Mia and the other girls would think she was cool, too.
            “My sneakers are too tight,” Kayla told her mother.
            “Already?” Mom sighed. She felt where Kayla’s toes were. “Your toes still have room.”
            “But they hurt!” Kayla said. “I need new ones.  Blue FLYRs.”
            Mom shook her head. “Too expensive, Kayla. They don’t fit with our budget. It’s not time for new sneakers, but when it is, FLYRs are out.”
            Kayla asked for blue FLYRs for Christmas. No luck.
            She asked again for her birthday. She received lots of nice presents, but not blue FLYRs.
            Kayla decided to save money to buy her own. She stashed her allowance and did a few odd jobs for neighbors. Her grandmother gave her $10 for helping clean and organize the pantry. At the end of the month, Kayla had $25. It was going to take a long time to save enough for a pair of FLYRs, too long. Kayla felt discouraged.
            On Saturday morning, Kayla was in the thrift store with her mother and little sister. Right there on the rack in front of her, blue FLYRs! She grabbed them and tried them on. “Mom, look!”
            “Honey, they’re about five sizes too big.”
            “I’ll stuff the fronts with newspaper so they fit.”
            “That wouldn’t be good for your feet.”
            “I’m growing really fast. They’ll probably fit next week.”
            “I don’t think so.”
            The next day, Kayla asked her mother to take her to the mall. She looked and looked and finally found a pair of white high-tops that fit on sale. She bought them with the money she’d saved.
            “What are you doing with those?” Mom asked.
            “You’ll see,” said Kayla.
             When she got home, Kayla got out her paints and started to draw on her new sneakers. She painted a dragon on one sneaker 

and an anime-style picture of herself petting an elephant on the other.  Then she borrowed her mother’s glue gun and glued a few blue sequins on the dragon to suggest scales and a few red sequins on the elephant just for fun.
She put the sneakers on and looked down at her feet. The dragon glittered fiercely on her right foot, exactly as a dragon should. Her self-portrait with the elephant made her smile, because she loved elephants so much. Her new sneakers made her very happy.
When she went to school the next day, Peyton stared at Kayla’s new sneakers. “They don’t match,” she said.
“They aren’t supposed to,” said Kayla. “They’re art.”
“I think they’re cool,” said Mia. “I wish I had a pair like that.”
“There’s only one pair like this in the whole world,” said Kayla. “But I’ll help you make a pair for yourself if you’d like,” she said. “What’s your favorite animal?”
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published January 14, 2018 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Matilde and the Wise Bear

                                                 Matilde and the Wise Bear
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

In the fullness of the moon, when her parents were finally asleep, Matilde snuck downstairs. She laced up her warm boots and wrapped a woolen scarf around her head. She slipped her purple coat over her long pants and heavy sweater and buttoned it tight. The night outside was freezing and she had a long way to walk to find the wise bear.
Matilde pet her red cat who was sleeping on a soft pillow by the fire. “I love you, Kasimir,” she said. “I’ll be back by morning.” She shivered and thought about going back upstairs to bed, but that wouldn’t do. The first full moon of the first month was the only day the wise bear spoke, awakening briefly from his deep winter slumber to answer questions for those brave enough to find him and ask. Matilde opened the front door and stepped into the cold night.
With her walking stick in hand, she followed a path through the forest and felt the path get steeper as it began to wind up the mountain. She was grateful for the full moon’s silver light guiding her.
Higher and higher Matilde climbed. Her toes felt cold in her boots even with her woolen socks. The cold nipped at her nose and made her eyes tear. Finally she saw the opening of a cave. Moonlight shone into the cave and Matilde approached the entry cautiously. “Hello?” she whispered.
“Rrrrrrr!”  A mighty growl echoed off the cave’s walls and Matilde jumped back.
She took a deep breath and approached the cave again. “It’s the first full moon of the year,” she said. “You’re the wise bear and I have a question.”
“Go away!” growled the bear. “I have no time for little girls with silly questions.”

Matilde held her ground. She knew she was getting somewhere, because the bear was talking, just like the legend said. She stamped her foot. “How do you know it’s a silly question when you haven’t even heard it yet?”
“Girls always ask silly questions,” grumbled the bear. “’Does Billy like me more than John?’ ‘Would I look prettier if I were blonde?’ ‘Will I marry a rich man?’ I have no time for that nonsense. Go to a fortune teller!”
Now, Matilde was angry. “If you’re so wise like everyone says, why are you so STUPID about girls? I suppose boys only ask important questions like which football team is going to win. You’re a fraud!” Matilde turned to go. 
The bear sat up and wiped the sleep from his eyes. “OK. You’ve made your point. I’m grumpy when I first wake up. “
“That’s no excuse.”
 “OK. I’m sorry. Silly questions annoy me and you’re right, boys ask them, too.”
“My question isn’t silly.”
The bear yawned. “Well, I hope you didn’t wake me up to ask one of those hard questions no one can answer like, ‘What is truth?’ or “What is beauty?’ I’m no philosopher. I hate questions like that, too.”
“You’re awfully picky aren’t you?”
“Not really. If people haven’t figured out what those things mean in thousands of years, how am I supposed to know?”
Matilde sighed. The bear was nothing like she imagined and she wasn’t sure meeting him was worth the cold hike up the mountain.
“So what’s your question?”
Matilde looked into the bear’s eyes. “I want to be a writer. I want to write stories that make people smile and books that people like so much they share them with friends. Do you think I can be a writer?”
“Do you have a pencil, or a pen?” the bear asked.
“Do you have paper, any kind of paper?”
“And you say you have ideas?
“Yes, lots of them.”
 The bear shrugged. “Then you can be a writer. What are you waiting for?” The bear yawned and slumped over, falling back to sleep.
Matilde tucked the pillow she’d made and filled with sweet grass under his head to say thank you.
All the way home she repeated over and over, “All I need to do is begin.” The year was new and she was ready.

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published January 7, 2018 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Puppy Huxley, Chew, Chew, Chew!

                                      Puppy Huxley, Chew, Chew, Chew!
                                                     By Valerie L. Egar

Layla lingered at the cage, gazing at the oversized puppy with black and golden fur who looked at her eagerly. One ear stood straight up and the other flopped down. He held his tail high in the air and it curled over his body like a question mark. “Are you sure he’s a puppy?” At five months old, the young dog weighed fifty pounds and stood tall as her school desk.
“Look how big his paws are. He hasn’t grown into them yet,” Dad said.
        “What kind of dog is he?” Layla asked.
The shelter’s adoption counselor smiled. “I’d guess a little collie, mixed with some golden retriever and maybe a hint of German Shepherd.”
“Sit,” Layla said. The dog sat. “Good boy, Huxley,” said Layla.
  Layla nodded. “I saw the name in a book I read.”
 Huxley went home with his new family, but not before they stopped at the pet food store to buy puppy chow and a nice squeaky stuffed frog for Huxley to play with.
 Huxley liked his new toy, but he was curious and had to find out how it made noise. He held it down with one paw and tore at it with his teeth. Soon the stuffing and the plastic squeaker were on the floor. He carried the unstuffed frog to Layla. “Oh, Huxley!” she sighed.
Huxley liked discovering new things to chew. Mom brought in bags of groceries. Huxley stuck his head in every bag when Mom wasn’t looking. He found a box of tea bags, carried it to his dog bed and chewed it open. Tea smelled nice, but Huxley didn’t want to eat it.
Dad hung pictures in his office and left the hammer on the floor. Huxley thought it looked like a bone. He carried it to his dog bed and chewed on the handle. Yuck! It didn’t have much flavor. Dad found his hammer decorated with tooth marks. "Oh, Huxley!" Dad sighed.
A bottle of water looked very interesting and it was easy to carry when Huxley grasped it by the top with his teeth. He carried it to his dog bed and gnawed on it. Eww! It made his bed wet.
The vacuum made too much noise. Huxley fixed it by chewing the electric cord off.
Magazines had wonderful scented paper perfume samples inside. Huxley loved how they smelled. Too bad he had to tear up the whole magazine just to get to them out.
Huxley found a feedbag of nuts and dried fruit his family bought to feed the woodpeckers. Huxley put his head deep into the bag and gobbled the woodpecker food. It was delicious. “Are you a woodpecker?” his family asked. “That’s not for you, Huxley.”
When his family forgot to shut the closet door, Huxley explored inside and found piles of shoes. They had funny looking spiky sticks on one end and looked hard to walk on. They were made from leather though and rather tasty. He chewed a red one, a blue one and another that was an odd shade of brown.
“Good thing I don’t wear high heels anymore,” Mom said. “You’re helping me clear the closet, Huxley.”
Layla found him with a canister of oatmeal, the lid chewed off and oatmeal sprinkled all over. “Oh, Huxley,” Layla said. “When are you going to grow up?” 
Huxley’s family went to the store and bought lots of chew toys for him—fancy ones shaped like bones and rubber ones they stuffed with treats. Maybe, just maybe, he would chew on his toys instead of things he wasn’t supposed to chew, like table legs and TV remotes. Huxley enjoyed his new toys, but he was still a puppy and now and then, he still decided to taste something new.
“Oh, Huxley! Not my science homework!”

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published December 31, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Reindeer Flu! Oh No!

Reindeer Flu! Oh No!
      By Valerie L. Egar

            Santa and the elves busily packed the back of Santa’s sleigh. Twelve noon and all was going well. Santa’s computer logged each sack as it was loaded, so the toy deliveries would go quickly and easily. Elves checked to make sure all the presents were secured— they didn’t need any falling into the ocean or thumping a poor polar bear on the head!
            Santa texted the elves in the Command Center, who were checking the weather. “All clear for 5:00 take-off?”
    The reply was quick:  “All systems go for 5:00!”
            Santa thought he might close his eyes for an hour or two before his journey when Elf Glyness ran up to him. “Oh, Santa,” she cried. “Come quick! The reindeer are sick!”
            Santa ran to the barn. Dasher sneezed and his eyes looked bleary. Prancer  and Vixen coughed so loud, the barn roof shook. Donner burned with fever. In every stall, Santa saw a reindeer with the flu. “We can still pull the sleigh,” Blitzen said. Santa shook his head. “Don’t you worry about that,” he said. “You work on getting better.”
            “I’ll pull the sleigh myself,” said Rudolph. “I’ll get it done, Santa.”
            Santa saw Rudoph’s nose was dim and felt a little hot. He had a fever, too. “Brave little deer, no,” said Santa. “You’re sick.”
Santa left the barn feeling sad. Liftoff was only a few hours away and he wondered how he was going to deliver the toys.
            Word quickly spread through the village that Santa needed help. “I’ll fly ya,” Mildred the postmistress said. She owned a rickety airplane that she flew back and forth to get all the mail sent to the North Pole. Though Mildred’s offer was kind, her plane was too small to carry all the toys. Besides there wasn’t enough time to unload the sleigh.
            Santa thought he might cry. He had never, ever, not even once missed Christmas. He’d never even been late. What could he do?
            At the edge of town, a Siberian husky named Romeo and his sister Sheba, heard the news. “Heck,” Romeo said, “Huskies pull sleds all the time, for thousands of miles.”

           Sheba fluttered her pretty blue eyes and nodded. “I never understood why Santa chose reindeer in the first place.”
            Both of them went into the yard and howled. Their call carried across the miles to their friends. “Emergency! Emergency! Huskies needed to pull Santa’s sleigh tonight.”
            Soon Keeka appeared with Phoenix, Togo, Merlin, Copper and Yukon, running and jumping.  “Let’s go, let’s go!” they howled. Nothing excited them more than running, and the idea of running so fast they flew above rooftops was a thrill not to be missed.
            They ran to Santa’s house and scratched at his door. Phoenix howled. Santa opened the door.
            “We’ve come to pull the sleigh,” Romeo barked.
            “We’ll get the job done, and fast, too!” howled Togo.
            Santa looked at the eager sled dogs. Their eyes sparkled and they pranced merrily, excited for the adventure ahead.
            “You’ve got a job,” he said. Just then, a puppy ran up 

the road. “Me, too! Me, too!” He yelled. He tumbled over, turned upside down and landed at Santa’s feet. He wasn’t yet full grown. All white with one amber eye and the other sky blue, he said, “My name’s Frost, I run fast!”
            Santa picked the little guy up. “How about you ride next to me and watch for falling stars?
            “OK!” Frost squealed.
            By four o’clock, the huskies were in their harnesses, with Romeo and Sheba in the lead. Santa climbed into the sleigh. Frost snuggled next to him. “Off we go!” Santa shouted. The huskies started to run. Faster and faster, faster

until Santa’s eyes twinkled and all of a sudden the sled, Santa, and the team of dogs was flying through the air.
            House to house they flew, barking and howling and they didn’t stop until every toy was delivered and they were home again.
            Santa gave every husky a beautiful medal. “You saved Christmas!” he said.
            “And I helped!” said Frost. With that, Santa had to agree.

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                 Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
                Published December 24, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME)